Penned by Pininfarina, the Rolls-Royce Camargue had been a seldom-seen model since its debut, and one whose design seemed harsh and uncompromising at the time. Fast-forward some 40 years, and the lines of Camargue seem strangely prescient: All it would need to look modern are larger wheels and some LED headlights. But back when it was new, the design (and the price) placed it out of reach of many. And even though time has softened its image, thanks to modern Rolls-Royce design, it remains almost as polarizing a design as the Lagonda sedan of the day.
The Camargue arrived on the scene in 1975, sporting very slabby bodywork that sparked comparisons to brutalist architecture. Auto design gurus will recall that Pininfarina offered a very similar design to Mercedes for a large SEC coupe, which was rebuffed, but managed to sell Fiat into something very similar for its 130 coupe, which saw a modest production run. The main event for this design direction, however, was the Rolls-Royce flagship, which became the most expensive offering in the British marque’s range. It shared relatively little with Rolls designs of the day, but did preview some later directions. One reminder of the design’s Italian roots were the taillights, seemingly plucked off a contemporary Fiat sedan, as well as the relatively slim A and B pillars. The resulting car looked visually heavy, with the body dwarfing the relatively small wheels and tires, while the front fascia was knocked for a funereal, Gothic appearance. It was a polarizing design, it’s safe to say, but generous on interior room and comfort, with power provided courtesy of the company’s 6.75-liter V8.
“‘The most luxurious four-seater coupe in the world’ was how the all-new Rolls-Royce Camargue was labeled in 1975, when it was launched,” the auction house notes. “It was also the most expensive car in the world, twice the price of a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.”
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Production ran from 1975 until 1986, with just 531 examples finding well-funded buyers. One of the cars was built as a Bentley at the factory, per customer request.
The 1980 model year Camargue that Artcurial will offer later this month was sold new to the US, and was bought by the consignor in 1990. The Camargue has been looked after by the permanent mechanic of the consigning collector since joining a stable of some 30 other English cars. The auction house notes that the car showed just 28,800 miles in 1993 and displays just 33,300 today, therefore covering very modest exercise miles over the past 30 years.
The auction house estimates this example to bring between 50,000 and 80,000 euros, or between $59,000 and $95,000.
Camargues do come up for auction with some regularity, and the estimate here is very much the going rate for one of these, which may surprise some given the low miles. Of course, there aren’t really too many high-mileage examples of the Camargue compared to other 1980 model-year cars, so this is perhaps not as unusual a factor in this sale. The color scheme of this example is also not uncommon, as you won’t find too many examples in loud or unusual colors. Still, it’d not a slenderizing color.
It’s also worth noting that the Camargue’s appreciation curve has remained rather flat since the mid-1990s, back when the latest examples were about a decade old, and they haven’t really moved since. This means that the Camargue has outperformed the Silver Shadows and Silver Spurs of the time, which can be found in just about any condition, but has not been propelled into the stratosphere, as Rolls-Royce and Bentley models from this time period have remained relatively affordable. It’s safe to say that interest in the model has remained relatively flat as well, and the vast majority of existing examples have been well looked after.
As the Camargue is rapidly approaching the 50-year mark, it remains to be seen whether there will be renewed interest in the model at a time when supercars and luxury cars of the 1980s are seeing serious interest from collectors. Its design has come full circle, with Rolls-Royce embracing a similar aesthetic at the moment, and it remains a rare bird even among Rolls-Royce and Bentley models of the era. About the only thing missing is a factory cabriolet version that would have made it just the thing for the French Riviera back in the day.
Visit the auction website to view the full list of lots from the upcoming sale.
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